Before You Set Foot Inside Another Airplane Bathroom... Read This

<span class="copyright">Stuart Dee via Getty Images</span>
Stuart Dee via Getty Images

There’s lots to love about flying — from how quickly it gets us to our destinations to finally being able to watch that trashy movie we normally wouldn’t make time for — but we’re just never going to be psyched about using an airplane bathroom.

They’re small. They’re cramped. They’re often occupied. They’re almost always nasty. But unless we remember to go before our flight takes off and/or we can hold it until we land, we’re probably going to end up in one sooner or later.

So when’s the best time to go? And what can we do to make using them as low-trauma as possible?

That’s what we — Raj Punjabi and Noah Michelson, hosts of HuffPost’s “Am I Doing It Wrong?” podcast — recently discussed with HuffPost senior reporter and travel expert Caroline Bologna. She dropped by our studio to school us on everything we need to know to make flying the friendly skies a little friendlier.

Listen to the full episode by pressing play:

“Some people would say the sweet spot [to use the lavatory] is once the pilot turns off the fasten seat belt sign but before the drink service starts,” Bologna told us. “That can sometimes be a short window, but most people aren’t thinking to go to the bathroom that early in the flight, so that’s a good time.”

If you miss your opportunity then, she recommends waiting until after the drink service, or else there’s a good chance you’ll be stuck behind the cart and stranded in the aisle until you’re able to return to your seat. However, by that point, many people will have finished their drinks, which means more bladders will need to be emptied and you’ll face longer wait times.

Another smart move is using the bathroom after you’ve boarded the plane but before it’s taken off, because it will have been cleaned recently. However, keep in mind you won’t be able to take your time, and you’ll likely have to navigate around other passengers who are trying to get to their seats and stow their luggage.

Once you’ve made it into the restroom, Bologna warns against hovering over the seat while you go.

“You probably do just need to sit on the toilet seat,” she advised. “There’s not much room for squatting, and because of turbulence, if your tush is not on the seat, that could be a real problem if you hit a bump.”

When it’s time to wipe, considering using the facial tissue in the bathroom instead of the toilet paper, which is more likely to be exposed to bodily fluids, since the roll-holder is closer to the bowl.

“The tissue paper is typically located at eye level on commercial aircrafts,” a flight attendant told Bologna, “significantly increasing the likelihood that any liquid splashed on it is in fact just water.”

Once you’re finished, make sure you flush with the toilet lid closed to avoid anything launching out of the bowl.

There could be a poo plume, “especially [because] those flushers are so powerful,” Michelson said.

Another potential issue? Due to the large number of people typically using the airplane restrooms during a flight — not to mention how tiny the space is — foul smells are common and can quickly rage out of control.

Bologna suggests employing a courtesy flush or two to keep your poop’s “air exposure time” as minimal as possible, thereby diminishing how long the odor has to permeate the lavatory.

Neil Patrick Harris — of all people — agrees.

“When you have to go No. 2 in an airplane bathroom, flush while you go, then flush after you go,” the actor told Thrillist. “Then — you laugh, but this is effective — use hand soap,” Harris suggested. “Put it on your hands and all over your arms, and do, like, tai chi moves with your arms.”

Bologna offered another unconventional idea to annihilate odors.

“I’ve heard that flight attendants sometimes use coffee grounds to freshen the air when there’s perhaps a little bit of a biohazard situation,” she said. Asking for a pack of the odor-absorbing grounds — or using one that you took from your hotel room’s mini bar — and unleashing them in the restroom could save your fellow passengers’ noses some misery.

Bologna also recommended wearing something comfortable that can easily be taken up or down or removed while doing your business in an especially tight space. If you’ve taken your shoes off, put them back on before entering the restroom, and make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before you return to your seat.

Finally, if you have a medical condition that causes you to use the restroom frequently or you’re not feeling well, let a flight attendant know. As one Reddit commenter with Celiac disease noted, “They went out of their way to help me. They moved me to a seat in the rear of the plane near the bathrooms and even flipped the door sign to where it always said occupied so it was available for me at anytime... They’re pretty understanding and are there to make sure you have a good flight.”

During our chat Bologna we also learned the disgusting reason why we might want to stop drinking airplane coffee, what to do if we feel sick while flying, and much more.

Listen to the full episode above or wherever you get your podcasts.

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